Kindness can be delivered in many different ways.

Sometimes we forget how much simple acts of kindness mean to others or how they can transform a day. But leading with compassion is so important because we never really know what other people are going through beneath the surface. And often, people are going through more than we think.

This story from Florida reminds us of that, thanks to a football player who made a middle school kid’s day.

A Regular Day for This Kid

football player eating lunch with little boy at school
CBS News

Bo Paske was three years old when he was diagnosed with autism. His mother, Leah Paske, knew it was important for her son to have a strong support group, which is why when it came time to pick a middle school, she chose Montford Middle School in Tallahassee, Florida, according to Today.

The mother knew Bo’s entire elementary school class would be at the middle school, so he would have a lot of friends who “are super protective of him and take care of him,” she explained to the publication. But even with those friends around, Bo often chose to eat lunch alone in the cafeteria.  

A solo meal was what Bo chose the day the Florida State University football team happened to visit the school. A child sitting there by himself didn’t escape the notice of wide receiver Travis Rudolph.

A Game-Changing Decision

When Rudolph saw Bo sitting alone, he headed over and joined him. When he made that decision, he had no idea Bo had autism. But that kind act caught the attention of plenty, including Leon County Sheriff’s Deputy Mike Halligan, who happened to be a friend of Paske. He snapped a photo and sent it to the anxious mother, who always thought about how her son was doing at school.

According to the publication, Paske shared the photo on Facebook and wrote that she was “overwhelmed with emotion.” It was a big moment for her son, and when she picked him up from school that day, he quickly showed her his autographed lunchbox, saying that he was famous.

“I had tears streaming down my face,” Paske wrote. “I’m not sure what exactly made this incredibly kind man share a lunch table with my son, but I’m happy to say that it will not soon be forgotten. This is one day I didn’t have to worry if my sweet boy ate lunch alone because he sat across from someone who is a hero in many eyes.”

Spreading Kindness Near and Far

The Paskes are now fans for life; this past summer they even traveled to Palm Beach to support Rudolph during recent legal troubles (the player was later cleared of all charges). But this mother added that Bo’s story isn’t just about autism: it’s about kindness and love. That day in the cafeteria, Rudolph showed both to her son, and she was incredibly grateful.

“Somebody may not act the same as you, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have the same heart and the same spirit,” she told the publication. “If you see somebody alone, all it takes is a few kind words or a kind gesture to make their day. A hug or a smile can impact people in a way that you can’t even imagine.”

It’s a fantastic reminder to practice kindness and love in our own lives, whether it’s dropping a random note or text to a loved one to check in, helping a stranger at the grocery store, smiling and complimenting others, or even just being there to listen.

In this world, it’s easy to sometimes feel down and alone. But a smile, kind thought, or gesture can be just the thing someone needs to turn around their day.

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